13 of the Cheapest Places to Live in California

Cost of living is all relative, right? What’s cheap in California is by no means the same in the Midwest or southern states in other parts of the country. California’s economy is strong, the weather is great, and people love the quality of life that the state has to offer. That’s why it’s still such a hot draw after all these decades.

Finding a lower cost of living place to live in California is tough, but it’s not impossible. Traditionally, the areas near the coast or with the best-paying jobs have been the most expensive.

Homes, restaurants, gas, and other expenses in the Los Angeles metropolitan area, San Diego, and across Silicon Valley are costly enough to make most people wince, especially if they are coming from a lower cost of living state.

Still, 2020 has given people more options than ever as companies shift to more remote working and people can move around more freely. As a result, moving to a more affordable location doesn’t have to mean you leave your job. Here are 13 of the cheapest places to live in California over the next year.

1. Rancho Cucamonga

Rancho Cucamonga

Maybe the most awesome thing about Rancho Cucamonga is saying its name every time you tell people where you’re moving! It’s a city situated between LA and Palm Springs at the base of the mountains. It was historically a popular wine-producing region that still has some of that culture to this day.

Rancho Cucamonga is a growing city, so people are moving there from across the state and the rest of the country. People who live in Rancho Cucamonga commute into LA in less than an hour and enjoy the outdoor activities the city has to offer. Joshua Tree is also in striking distance for a day trip.

2. Bakersfield

Bakersfield CA

With over 300,000 residents, Bakersfield is a great mix of affordability and urban living. People who live in Bakersfield tend to want out of the large city vibe but still want all of the pleasures of being in an urban environment. Even then, some of the state’s best attractions are only a few hours away by car.

Outdoorsy folks love living in Bakersfield because it’s located right next to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and several national parks. Housing is much lower than in many other cities in California and the public transportation system is enough to get by on.

3. Oxnard

Oxnard CA

Oxnard is an outdoor enthusiast’s dream, with over 20 miles of beaches that offer whale watching, fishing, kayaking, and surfing. It’s home to many wine tasting tours, craft breweries, and great outdoor shopping.

According to the California Budget Center, a single adult needs around $2,200 a month to cover living costs like rent, healthcare, and transportation. That’s a bargain when you consider that you’re not going to have to spend a lot of money on things like entertainment because there is so much to do outside.

4. Sacramento

Sacramento CA

As funny as it sounds, a lot of people, even Americans, would guess the capital of California wrongly. Sacramento remains a well-kept secret with a lower cost of living while still maintaining a great local environment.

Located smack dab in the middle of the state, you can make your way by car to San Francisco or Los Angeles in a matter of hours. There are a ton of free activities in the city that keep entertainment costs low as well.

5. San Diego

San Diego waterfront with palm trees

Bear with us for a second. Even though San Diego isn’t cheap (especially housing), there are some affordable areas in the region where you can live for a bargain and still enjoy everything beautiful San Diego has to offer.

In particular, Barrio Logan is a neighborhood next to downtown where there is a revitalization going on. Housing is still cheap and there are markets where food costs are low. You’ll probably have to get there quickly, though, before things change.

6. Coalinga

Coalinga is in Fresno County and is one of the cheapest cost of living cities in the state. Taking things like home price to income ratio into account, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a much cheaper place anywhere in California. In 2020, the median home value sits at just $165,000. Yes, you read that right!

7. Ridgecrest

If you want to live near the Sierra Nevada mountains and Bakersfield is either too pricey or has too many people, then you should consider places like Ridgecrest.

Living in the Ridgecrest area grants you access to the Sierra Nevada, El Paso, and Argus mountains. There are some great local restaurants, and the local economy is driven by a Naval testing station and a community college.

The median income is a bit low by California standards and unemployment is higher than the national average. Those are two things to bear in mind if you think you’re going to have to find a new job wherever you move.

8. Blythe

Blythe is home to the largest percentage of young people aged 25 to 44 in one Californian city. It’s a hip center full of life a rapidly growing cannabis industry. Many people moving to Blythe find jobs at one of the several cannabis facilities in the area, and they stay for the great food and the excitement that comes with building something new.

Unemployment is a bit higher than in other parts of the state, however, so sharpen up the resume before you move.

9. Live Oak

Live Oak is about an hour outside Sacramento, so if you still want to find something cheaper than the capital, then take a look. Living in Live Oak still keeps you in striking distance to all of the nightlife and free activities to be found in Sacramento, and rents and home prices are significantly lower.

It’s city living at arm’s length. You can enjoy the lower rents but still drive into the city at night or on the weekends to soak in the scenery and go to festivals.

10. Clear Lake

If you’re a sucker for water but aren’t into the ocean, Clear Lake may be for you. Clear Lake is an affordable cost of living area with tons of boating, fishing, and water sports. People there love to sail and water ski all week long with fantastic weather most of the year.

This affordable location will leave money left over in your pocket to buy a jet-ski or a fishing boat that you’ve always wanted. You can also save money by enjoy the free activities that nature has to offer.

Why spend money at the movies or in a bar all of the time when you can be out on the lake with friends enjoying nice weather all year? People love living in Clear Lake.

11. Long Beach

Long Beach CA aerial view

If you’ve been to LA and have fallen in love, then Long Beach could be the low-cost home you’re looking for. It’s got terrific public transportation systems that can get you around quickly and cheaply.

There are plenty of concerts and amazing food festivals all year.

Long Beach is famous for being very pet friendly, and people are running, eating, and walking with their dogs everywhere.

12. Hanford

Hanford is for the small-town lovers who want to get away from it all. With a population of just over 55,000, you’ll have plenty of space and many affordable housing options.

It’s not likely to stay sparsely populated forever. Indeed, Hanford is seeing a rapid influx of people, so it could be a good real estate investment if you move in and buy a place this year.

13. Fresno

Fresno CA sign

There is a ton to do in Fresno. There are national parks, amazing coastlines, and big cities are only a few hours away. It’s also much more affordable than other big cities in the state.

The only thing about Fresno is that it can get blisteringly hot in the summers, with temperatures rising to well over 100 degrees.

There are plenty of incredible foodie spots and a nice diverse population to make up for it, though, which has made Fresno a wonderful family-friendly location for years.

California Apartments

Wherever you decide to live, it’s nice knowing that California isn’t all sky-high housing prices. There are still pockets of affordable places where you can enjoy everything the state has to offer. It will take a bit more time researching locations, even down to the neighborhood, but there are deals to be had.

In the next year, many of the low-cost California towns and cities are likely to see an increase in younger professionals who want out of the stress of big cities and crushing rents. People can only share rooms and compromise so much.

As the economy and more jobs trend to remote options and digital workspaces, you have more choice in where you live. You can start somewhere new or join an already budding community of professionals transitioning from traditional urban centers.

Get out there and discover what the state has to offer and where you can stake your claim!

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